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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 09th April 2018

By DPF Admin17th April 2018August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

The international community is deciding how to react to a chemical attack launched in Syria, which killed dozens. Opposition forces blame the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, who is militarily supported by Russia, but he denies the claims. American President Donald Trump has tweeted that Russia is responsible for the attack by proxy and has vowed to take action in the region, something the US and the UK have so far avoided doing.

Russia has responded saying it does not conduct its diplomacy through Twitter.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has summoned the Cabinet for an emergency meeting, despite it being Easter recess, and the BBC has reportedthat she is preparing to launch joint military action with the US and without seeking parliamentary consent. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for parliamentary involvement in the decision and said: “More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life. It will just take more lives and spawn the war elsewhere.”

Overview 

·      Leaked Home Office document attributes police cuts to rise in London knife crime

·      Government strategy on Serious Violence fails to acknowledge need for more police

·      Metropolitan Police capabilities questioned

·      More PCCs take on responsibility for fire & rescue

·      Army officers’ promotion will depend on inclusiveness

Leaked Home Office document attributes police cuts to rise in London knife crime

Following the recent spike in fatal stabbings in London, The Guardianreportedon a draft Home Office strategy on combatting knife crime that was leaked to them. The strategy suggested that offenders may have been “encouraged” by the police’s lack of resources. Between 2010 and 2017 police numbers have decreased from 143,734 to 123,142 across the UK and the document said that this “likely contributed” to the rise in serious crime, along with a decrease in the rate of charges and a “lack of deterrence.” 

The document was leaked a day after Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrotein the Daily Telegraph, denying that there is a link between the decrease in police resources and the increase in crime. She noted that police numbers had been rising in the early noughties when serious violent crimes were at their highest rate. She was supported by Policing Minister Nick Hurd, who said that it was “categorically not the case” that reduced police resources had led to the rise in violent crime. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “You simply cannot maintain community cohesion when you slash funding to the police service and cut the number of officers on our streets by 21,000.”

While the Home Office declined to comment on the leaked document and Ms Rudd denied having seen it, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, said: “Cuts reduce police effectiveness and their ability to apprehend criminals. It also undermines the reassurance and deterrent effect that a police presence can have. If the Government's own serious violence strategy accepts that police cuts have had an effect, why can't the Government itself?” Forty-seven Labour MPs have signed a letter, writtenby Wes Streeting, to the Prime Minister Theresa May and Ms Rudd demanding more police funding. 

Government strategy on Serious Violence fails to acknowledge need for more police

The Home Office has subsequently launchedits Serious Violence Strategy which will receive £40m funding to tackle crimes involving knives and guns, including £11m for an Early Intervention Youth Fund and a focus on tackling gangs and the drugs market which fuels such violence with a £3.6m National County Lines Coordination Centre. The strategy also involves a Serious Violence Taskforce, chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd, and bringing together civic society with the public and private sector for a joined-up approach. When launching the Strategy, Ms Rudd called it “a real step-change” in the Government’s handling of the problem.

This supports the launch of the Offensive Weapons Bill, the day before, which seeks to prohibit the sale of knives, knuckle dusters, acid  and similar weapons to under-18 year-olds and examine young people’s use of social media.

The announcements have been criticised for not allocating more money to the police and failing to acknowledge the part the reduction in police numbers has played in the increase of violent crime. Accordingto Police Oracle, the Chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, Ian Hanson, said that Ms Rudd has lost the confidence of police officers and victims of crime nationwide: “The politicians tell us it is not about police numbers […] yet the response to the crisis in our capital this week is to draft 300 additional police officers from across London. They can’t have it both ways.” 

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, said: “Talking tough is not enough. This announcement ignores the factors which we know contribute to crime, including a lack of decent work opportunities for young people, cuts to health services and decline in community policing.”

The backlash the Government strategy has received for failing to commit financially shows that there is public support for police funding. The Home Secretary will struggle to continue denying police more money, but the Treasury is under pressure from multiple departments to provide more funding, most notably the MoD, and so is unlikely to give the Home Office substantially more money. However, barring significant developments, any increases in funding may well be held until the Budget in the autumn.

Metropolitan Police capabilities questioned

The Evening Standardhas reportedthat the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, was forced to assert that the Met had not lost control of the streets of London and that there is not an “epidemic” in crime, despite the spike in knife crime incidents. Of knife crime she said: “These homicides are predominantly, tragically, affecting young people from certain areas of London and certain communities and that makes me angry and motivated to do something about it. But London remains a very safe city.” 

At an emergency meeting between the Met and community groups, the Detective Chief Superintendent tasked with leading the Met’s organised crime command, Michael Gallagher, said that the Force could not tackle the problem alone. He said: “What we need is a societal change where young people, as perpetrators and victims, feel valued and protected.”

More PCCs take on responsibility for fire & rescue

The Home Office has announcedthat the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Northamptonshire, Stephen Mold, is the latest to take responsibility for the local fire and rescue service. This follows Roger Hirst in Essex, John Champion in West Mercia, Matthew Ellis in Staffordshire and Jason Ablewhite in Cambridgeshire. The scheme is to help deliver the Home Office’s drive to improve collaboration between local police and fire services, creating efficiencies through them sharing building and intelligence. 

As with previous conversions, the merge was subject to local consultation and responses were reviewed by the Home Office. The announcement said, “The proposal demonstrated that a transfer of governance would be in the interests of the local economy, efficiency and effectiveness, without having an adverse effect upon public safety.”

Army officers’ promotion will depend on inclusiveness

The Daily Telegraphhas reportedthat army officers’ promotions will depend on them making sufficient efforts to improve “inclusivity and diversity” in their units. This has been exposed by a newly-uncovered internal document regarding career progression in the military and is one of around 10 measures considered in the process. It was introduced in November 2016 under the then-Chief of Defence People, General Richard Nugee.

The new requirement supports the recent launch of the Army’s new recruitment drive that promotes the familial aspects of being in the military, has the slogan “Find where you belong,” and tries to encourage typically underrepresented groups, such as ethnic minorities and women, to join. 

An MOD spokesman said the requirement is “an intrinsic part of the behaviour we expect from everyone across Defence. We want people to be part of a team and we want to be able to identify if there’s a problem.”

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